Shaul Yagodjinski: Journey impressions 1989


My name is Shaul Jagozinski, and I’m a son to a family of holocaust survivors from the city of Siedlce in Poland.

I would like to tell you about a journey I took to Poland 6 years ago, and perhaps it should be called a visit to the grave.

As a boy, I have seen again and again photos of my father and other survivors digging a mass grave for the city’s Jews, among them – his family members. And now the Communist bloc disintegrated and an opportunity arose to pay a visit to Poland. My wife and I decided to go and take our 13 years old son with us. Since my Polish is fluent, I reserved by phone, with no difficulty, an apartment and a driver with a vehicle that will wait for us at the airport.

Thus, on August 1989, we landed in Warsaw. Our driver is a Doctor of Biology, living from a monthly salary of $ 20 which is what I per day.

Impressions from the journey

And we are on our way – the Doctor describes the sites we pass, pointing to a 30 stories building unpopulated and says “they say the building sways, because it’s standing on the remains of a Synagogues and the Jews are swinging it from below “.

The next day, we travel in Warsaw. A city which was rebuilt after World War Two. the city roads are wide, the parks are beautiful and I’m thinking to myself: “we’re going to  Siedlce tomorrow!”, and I try to enjoy the museums and the food at the fancy  restaurant And the sound in my head says: “Siedlce …. Siedlce”.

The next day we travel. On the way I try to think reasonably: “why are you so excited, Shaul? It’s true that your family lived there for hundreds of years, but none of them will come out to greet you, no one is left. They all died, Shaul. Everyone Died”. After traveling for about an hour and a half, we arrived to Siedlce, totaling about 60,000 residents. Until The Holocaust – 40% were Jews. Today there is only one Jew there, over 90 years old.

Geographically, the city is near a railway interchange: Warsaw – Treblinka, Lublin – Treblinka.

We entered the municipality hall which has become the City Museum. A city with no Jews, were there ever any Jews here? There are neither memories nor references. As if they never existed.

Upon exiting I was asked to sign in the guestbook as befits a guest from abroad. Outside I’m looking around and taking photographs. Maybe the pictures will say something to my father when we get back.

Suddenly I’m approached by a Polish passerby saying, “Sir, what are you photographing? All these were Jews’ houses “. I understand that I’m in the right place.

I ask: “Sir lives here long?”

“Oh, certainly”, he answers “I’m here since before the war “.

“So, perhaps Sir remembers a building with a bakery, that has been bombed from the air?”

“I certainly do, because that was the first bombing, and we all came out to look at the plane. And the house, Sir, is in the street across from us. 3rd house on the left, easy to identify since the top floors weren’t rebuilt”.

And we approach the building – my parents’ home. In my mind I see my mother, making way, between tons of bricks and rubble, directing herself by the crying of my sister, a month and a half old. The baby survived.

On the way to the cemetery I think “Religious families  – many Children – only my grandfather had 11 siblings – and all are buried in the same place for hundreds of years, thousands of tombs with the same family name. Where are they?”

The car drives along a tall wall of the cemetery, all the way to the gate. The gate is locked. Looking at the wall, made of red bricks, I notice that fragments of Jewish gravestones were used to block holes in the wall. We cross a building’s courtyard, the guard’s dwelling, apparently. In front of us is a show of vandalism. A giant field covered with grass and broken gravestones, we pass between the broken pieces, trying to connect them in vain when rain starts trickling down, and I’m close to despair. A thought is crossing my mind: there was a war, there were Germans, and anti-Semitic raged. But where are the mass graves? While I was pondering this, my son came running: “Dad!! The Doctor has found the grave”.

We make way between the weeds, and a marble plate is revealed, large and round. And on it, in Polish, Yiddish And Hebrew: “A mass grave for those killed, slaughtered and burned ….”

And then I realized that – in my case, Relatives Search Section was closed.

Written after a “Masa Shorashim” to Siedlce, August 1989, by Shaul Jagozinski, son of Aharon Jagozinski who still lives and is 101 years old.

Aharon Jagozinski was 37 years old in 1946, when he helped bringing Jews’ bones from Treblinka to Siedlce for burial.